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The Fifth Column

17th May 1998

They never do what they say

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"Thaaththa" Bindu Udagedara said, pointing to the newspapers he was reading, "Sri Lanka Telecom is offering a half a million rupees reward......"

"What for?" Percy, Bindu's father asked.

"For designing a new logo....." Bindu explained.

"It's about time that they had a new logo...." Percy agreed.

"Why do you say that, thaaththa"?

"Why, they recently increased all the call charges...."

"But thaaththa" Bindu protested, "I thought they said they reduced call charges, why Mangala even gave us free calls on New Year's Day...."

"That's what they said, but that is not what they did....."

"Why do you say that?"

"They reduced overseas call charges, yes but they raised local call charges in a funny way," Percy said.

"Why, what was funny about that?"

"If your phone bill is less than 200 units, you are charged at a low rate, but if it is more then 200 it is charged at a much higher rate...."

"What's wrong about that, thaaththa ? If you use more than 200 units you pay a higher amount for the excess units......"

"That's exactly what's wrong about it," Percy grumbled; "if you use more than 200 units you don't pay a higher amount for the excess units; you pay a higher rate for all the units according to Mangala's new scheme; so someone using 201 units pays nearly double the amount paid by someone using 199 units...."

"That" Bindu said "is like G.L. Peiris saying there will be a 25 per cent increase in postage rates and raising the postal rates from one rupee to two rupees..."

"Remember Bindu, G.L. is Professor of Law, not mathematics...."

"But thaaththa, he's deputy minister of Finance....."

"Ah yes, so he is cashed in on the telephone bills also, levying the famous GST....."

"But thaaththa, the GST was lower than the earlier turnover tax, so the final bill should be less...."

"Ah, unfortunately no, because, Anuruddha also steps in and imposes a National Security Levy of four and a half percent..."

"So" Bindu said, "the total tax is twelve and a half percent GST and four and a half per cent SecurityLevy - seventeen per cent...."

"Again, Bindu," Percy said, "Since these people don't know or know too much their arithmetic. The Security Levy is calculated not at four and a half per cent of your bill but at four and a half per cent of your bill plus the GST; so it's much more...." "So" Bindu said, "in our phone bills we have the call charges plus the Mangala Tax which is the higher rate for those using over 200 units; G.L. Tax and the Anuruddha Tax..."

"Yes" Percy agreed.

"But thaaththa" Bindu wanted to know, "how do we know whether we are using 200 units or more?...."

"Maybe" Percy said, "Mangala will produce a 'Mangala meter' that keeps track of the number of units and ask us to buy that also...."

Rajpal Abeynayake's Column

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